Valdosta Daily Times

October 17, 2013

Fighting breast cancer takes teamwork

Kristin Finney
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — As a baseball mom, being part of a team is familiar ground for Ami Guilliams. Recently though, Guilliams became part of a team that she never expected.

After discovering a lump in her breast, Guilliams went to her obstetrician, who claimed it was nothing. Having a bad feeling, Guilliams pushed to have it reexamined. On May 23, Guilliams was diagnosed with invasive triple negative breast cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer does not respond to hormonal treatments, meaning that her only option was a combination of surgery, and aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.

Eight days after her diagnosis, on May 31, Guilliams underwent a double mastectomy. Since that time she has received four rounds of chemotherapy and 24 of her 28 radiation therapies.

From day one of her diagnosis, Guilliams has been surrounded by a constant support team that includes her doctors, family, friends and even strangers thousands of miles away.

“The team I have had around me has picked me up every time I have even considered stumbling. Every time I have needed something, God has provided a person to help me. I know this sounds weird, but this has been an uplifting experience. I have learned a lot and met lifelong friends,” said Guilliams.

While it might seem odd for some to consider supporters a team, that is what Guilliams knows.

“I’m a baseball mom. My kids play baseball. My husband coaches baseball. Baseball is my life. Everything is based on a team,” she said.  

Since she was diagnosed, Guilliams has had more people than she could imagine praying for her.

She explained, “As soon as I found out, my friends started a prayer chain. I have people contacting me from the West Coast letting me know they are praying for me. There are always so many cards, emails and texts. You really learn who your friends are when something like this happens. I will be laying in bed thinking I can’t do this, and out of nowhere someone will text me saying, ‘I’m thinking about you and praying for you.’ Knowing that someone took time out of their night to help me, it’s wonderful.”

Guilliams’ doctors have helped her stay strong and have never let her give up. She shared special thanks for Dr. Pennington, her surgeon, Dr. Dallas, her oncologist, Dr. Vandemark, her reconstruction surgeon, and Dr. Devine, the doctor over her radiation.

“Dr. Pennington saved my life. I know people say that all the time, but he really did. If you’re going to fight cancer, you need an aggressive team behind you, and that’s what Dr. Pennington has done for me,” said Guilliams.

“I have two small children. They struggled after I was diagnosed. Little kids tend to think when something like this happens, ‘My mom’s going to die.’ Social workers met with them and so did Dr. Dallas. They talked to them and helped put them at ease. I can’t thank them enough for that,” she said.

Guilliams continued, “Some people don’t choose to get reconstructive surgery. I did. After I chose to get reconstruction surgery, Dr. Devine explained to me in detail what to expect. After the surgery he showed me the incisions and told me, ‘See it’s not that bad.’ I kept saying I looked horrible, but Dr. Devine looked at me and said, ‘No, you look beautiful.’ They have all just been amazing.”

Despite a grim diagnosis, Guilliams has never given up and has always tried to keep a positive attitude. As a baseball mom, she also receives a ton of support from her son’s team.

“The team wore pink arm bands for me. It was such an awesome thing. They know my hair is gone, and they know that I am sick, but they don’t really understand what it means. It made me happy to know they support me no matter what,” said Guilliams.  

Another place that offers Guilliams support is the South Georgia Medical Center Pearlman Cancer Center. She said of the center, “The second you walk through the door, it is so uplifting.”

Ami is married to Greg, they have two sons Elijah and Isaac. Guilliams has a bachelor’s of science in aerospace and a master’s in science in space studies from Embry-Riddle. She works with the company Write Score as a director of science scoring.

While her battle isn’t over, Guilliams has a very positive outlook for the future. Her advice to anyone fighting this battle, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can’t do this alone. There are several times when I think I can’t do this and then someone will look at me and say, ‘Yes you can. You can totally do this.’ You have to have that support. I am so thankful for all the people that have helped me. I’m nothing. All of these people are the ones that have really fought. I’m the weak one. They are truly amazing people.”